Home, sweet car. | Part 1: Why I turned my SUV into a camper. / by Shana Berenzweig

Santa Cruz Mountains, CA | August 2019

Santa Cruz Mountains, CA | August 2019

If you’ve been following my Instagram stories, then you know I got back yesterday evening from a big ol’ roadtrip across the southwest and up the west coast with my dog, Frankie. Mostly a vacation, I did work a little while I was gone, and so while I’m doing laundry and downloading all my client sessions to my desktop computer, I decided to throw together some initial thoughts about the camping part of my trip.

First, let’s backtrack a moment.

I love tent camping, but it can also be a lot of work to set-up/break-down camp, particularly by yourself, and let’s face it, it’s not always that fun or comfy, especially when the weather turns. And tent camping by yourself can be scary and leave you feeling vulnerable. So like many people, I’ve long dreamed of having of having a home on wheels for roadtrips and camping.

The reality of my bank account, though, says that’s not happening any time soon without an unexpected financial windfall. This meant I had to get creative and so inspired by the ever-growing ranks of DIY car campers, I decided to build a sleeping platform in the back of my SUV.

I’m working on another post about the actual building of the sleeping platform and the nitty-gritty reality of it all, but until then, this one is more focused on the why I chose to do this and how I feel about it now that I’ve spent 5 nights camping in it.

Santa Cruz Mountains, CA | August 2019

Santa Cruz Mountains, CA | August 2019

Like I said above, I really do love tent camping. But doing it alone for multiple nights far from home is another thing. And even though I have tent camped alone a few times, the circumstances were all very different and sleeping in my car felt like the absolute right way to go for me on this trip.

I hoped I would feel much safer as a women traveling and camping alone.

I hoped it would save me time since I wouldn’t have to set up and break down a tent, which would then allow me more time for exploring and relaxing at camp.

I hoped it would be much more comfortable and that I would sleep so much better, which is so important when you’re traveling alone and driving long distances.

I hoped the sacrifices I would make in turning my SUV into camper would be so worth it.

Santa Cruz Mountains, CA | August 2019

Santa Cruz Mountains, CA | August 2019

And I was right. All of the above (and more) was true.

I never ever for one moment felt unsafe in the car at night. Same for traveling the road in general. (Working on a blog post about safely traveling solo as a woman, so keep a look out for that.)

Right again about it being a big time saver. It took a day or two to work out what should go where and there was a little bit of a nighttime set-up for the car, but it was nothing compared to a tent and could easily be done in the dark with just a headlamp, which can’t always be said for a tent. This also meant I could get to camp a little later in the day than I normally would since I wouldn’t have to factor in the time and daylight needed for setting up camp, which in turn led to more exploration and relaxation time.

And right again about being super comfy and sleeping well. A couple adjustments after the first night and I was good to go.

There were some sacrifices I had to make, like bringing a smaller cooler since I didn’t have the same space available in the car like on my other long-distance road and camping trips, but they were definitely worth it to have the ability to sleep in the car.

There are some things I will do differently for the next trip. But the important thing is that there will definitely be another trip. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

And that’s the best thing about this little conversion. I already feel way more inspired to go away for a quick camping trip than I ever have before with solo tent camping.

It’s easier and I feel much safer. And those were the two biggest things stopping me before.

Now that I’ve got those problems solved, I can get to making some minor changes, as well as to start saving some money so I can upgrade a few other things, like getting a rooftop cargo carrier to free up room inside and reduce the amount of gear I have to move around.

I’m already planning my next adventure and can’t wait to hit the road again. Until then, stay tuned for more posts in this series about turning my car into a camper.